Henry Rice


A direct descen­dant of a missionary family, Henry Rice’s roots run deep in upcountry Maui. His grandfather purchased Ka­onoulu Ranch a century ago, and with roughly 10,000 acres of land stretching from the top of Haleakala to Maui’s south shore, it remains one of the few nearly intact ahupua‘a left in Hawai‘i. After a stint as a banking executive in Honolulu, he returned to Maui and his paniolo origins, and continues to honor the traditions passed down to him.


This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Nov. 1, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Nov. 5, at 4:00 pm.


Henry Rice Audio


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Does it irk you, though, to be a missionary descendant, and to hear comments about missionaries taking advantage and getting rich?


Getting rich off the Hawaiians. I think a lot of that … in some ways, I do. But I tend to get it corrected in what they did well, and why they did well at it.


His family arrived in Hawai‘i around 1840, after a long journey from New York around Cape Horn. He describes himself as a Caucasian with a Hawaiian cultural background. Growing up, he didn’t need toys; just his horses, Nellie and Kamehameha, and the slopes of upcountry Maui. Next, on Long Story Short, Henry Rice.


Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawai‘i’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.


Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Henry Rice is a third generation rancher and former bank executive from Kula, Maui. His family’s century-old ranch named Kaonoulu, which means the good or plentiful breadfruit, is one of the few nearly intact ahupuaa left in Hawai‘i. The ranchlands span from the top of Haleakala down toward the shores of Kihei. Kaonoulu Ranch, now roughly ten thousand acres in size, has been in operation since the Hawaiian Monarchy. Henry Rice is a direct descendant from a missionary family.


Well, I think it goes back to they came here in about 1840, 1841.


What for?


On my father’s side, the Rice side, was William Harrison Rice. And he came here as a missionary. My grandmother’s side, which was the Baldwin side, they came here as a doctor. When they first got here, William Harrison was actually to go on down to the South Pacific; the Society Islands. He got ill here, and so, he and his wife stayed here, and consequently, never did get down permanently to the South Pacific.


And where were they from?


East Coast; New York.


And what generation are you on down the line?


Fifth, if I count correctly. Yeah. Because it would have been William Harrison Rice, then William Hyde Rice, then my grandfather Pop, then my father, and then myself. So, we’re fifth generation.


And the family business was not being a missionary; that ended with that generation?




How did ranching get into the family blood and property?


Well, I would say, really, Pop Rice.


Was he already a rancher?


No; he grew up on Kauai with his brothers and sisters, and moved to Maui in the sugar business, and also in the fruit growing business in Haiku. And it was there on Maui that he met his bride, Charlotte Baldwin, who was Henry P. Baldwin’s daughter. And they got married there on Maui, and lived on Maui. Our ranch is probably one of the last ahupua‘as on the island, running from the top of Haleākala Crater down to the beach. Going back further, it was under King Kamehameha IV. It was this huge tract of land from mountain to ocean was given to, or deeded to a Hawaiian. And then, that was about in mid-1800s.


Do you know what Hawaiian family?


It’s Kaoahokoloi. And then, the ranch itself, which is the Kaonoulu Ahupuaa, eventually ended up in farming with a Chinese person by the name of Young Hee. And Young Hee in turn, in the early 1900s, about 1902, sold it to Colonel William Cornwell, who at that time was a sugar grower on Waikapui. Then my grandfather, Pop Rice, purchased it from Colonel William Cornwell’s daughter, who was married to John Walker. And he purchased it in 1916 from them.


How much did it cost?


It’s always been a wonder. Everybody has wondered about that.


headed the ranch and the lands before you did?


He was a very large person, with a very large voice. Very heavily involved in politics, but ranching was his life and his love. But he was never afraid to try something new, and he was always experimenting with a farming operation, a large piggery.


Was he fair?


Very fair, and very well appreciated by our neighbors. I always admired; in different walks of life, people would come up and tell me of things that he did. But he was a very modest man, and he was very much below the radar in that aspect. Very above the radar in politics.


What kind of politics?


State Senate. He was a longtime Republican, but then, I think it was back in the late 30s, he switched to Democrat. He rode his own trail.


So, that’s a large legacy. You know, that’s your grandfather. What was your father like? Did he also live large?


He was very much under the radar; very much under the radar. And he did not like politics, per se. His integrity and character was something that I always admired. You know, at one time, he was head of the Maui Police Commission. At one time, he was head of the Maui Water Department, which was at that time autonomous to the county government. He was a very influential person in my life.


So, he didn’t run for office, but he was appointed to office.


Yes; right.


He was also in public roles, but in an appointed fashion.


That’s correct; yeah. But he was a wonderful person.


When you say his integrity always impressed you, do you remember as a little kid feeling like, Wow, my father is really a straight, fair guy?




Do you remember anything?


Oh, there are just numerous incidents. And that’s the beauty of growing up on the ranch, was the ability to work side-by-side with your father every summer as a small child, growing up to when I went away to college. Then after college, we were weaned.


So, you rode alongside him, and worked alongside him in the office?


There was no office.


No office?


It was always horseback.


The office was out on a horse back.


The office was down in Wailuku, and we didn’t go there.


What did the paniolos you worked with teach you about life? Lots of Hawaiian families have grown up on your ranch.


Yeah; yeah. What’d they teach me about life?




I think the first thing that comes to my mind is the importance of the ‘aina, the land. And that in Hawaii, it is very important to have good stewardship of your lands, that lands in Hawaii should never been taken for granted, and that you’re responsible for good stewardship. That, followed with a lot of good fun.


In addition to laborious duties on the family ranch, Henry Rice did make time for fun, and took advantage of the open country on Maui.


I grew up in our family home in Makawao, which is a home above Makawao. The ranch had a few hundred acres in Makawao there, so it was where the horses were all kept. And in our yard, I had two horses, Nellie and Kamehameha, that I rode all the time. It was mostly outdoors you made your own fun.


So, you raced; did you play polo?


I played a lot of polo. A hard, but a very fun sport. I was very, very lucky in that my years in polo, I got to play for the Maui Polo Team. Probably the last Maui polo team to play outdoor polo at Kapi‘olani Park.


Yeah; so you came before the days of people staying inside with their digital devices and watching Netflix on their Smart TVs.




Always outdoors; nighttime too, campfires?


I think our best camping trips were during the summers, where we would get on our horses with my mother and father, and family, and packhorses and ride a whole day around the Island of Maui to an area called Waipai, and spend about five days over there, hunting goats and fishing. That was a lot of fun. And then, ride all the way back.


As a teenager, Henry Rice traded in his daily life of horseback riding in open spaces for city life on Oahu.


Afterwards, then came down to Honolulu to go to school here.


Did you board?


At Punahou. Yes; we boarded. And then, on to Fort Collins, Colorado at Colorado State University.


Why did you go to Colorado State?


Well, number one, I had a very good scholarship to go there. Secondly, I knew some people from Hawai‘i that were already going to Colorado. And I knew they had a good ag school, and I was gonna major in animal husbandry. And so, the combination, ‘cause I had never been off to the mainland before, knowing that some people that were already going there was a big influence. There was a Hawaiian gal, and her name escapes me right now, that was going to Colorado State University. She came from the Big Island. And she was a friend of Sandy’s. She’s the one that said to me; she said, You ought to meet this lady, Sandy Goodfellow.


Did you know when you saw her, she would be your wife?


Very shortly after I met her, I knew. She was a very beautiful person, Sandy was, and still is.


It sounds like you intended to take over the family ranch after college.


No; no, no.


Even though you were majoring in animal husbandry? Which you already knew a lot about.


I think very early on, growing up on the ranch, and especially as we got into college and came back during the summers, it became very important in my father’s eyes, and I really thank him for this, that we get weaned and go out and find out own way, and gain some experience at other ranches. So, when you graduate, find a job.




But get it on another ranch.


But it was gonna be ranching?


It was gonna be ranching. And I started out at Moloka‘i Ranch. By then, I had gotten married to Sandy, the wife I have today. So, we moved in 1960 to Moloka‘i, where I was employed by Moloka‘i Ranch. And we were five years on Moloka‘i. They were wonderful years. God, this wonderful place. It still is a wonderful place. And I had always been interested in what made certain businesses successful, and what made the same type of business unsuccessful. When I made the change to go to Bank of Hawai‘i, a lot of that played a role in why would I leave ranching to go into banking. Primarily, at that time, Moloka‘i Ranch was negotiating with Louisiana Land Company to develop the west end of Moloka‘i. And so, the chairman of the board of the ranch was also the chairman of the board of Bank of Hawai‘i, and he thought it would be very good for me to go down and learn a little bit of land development and land financing, and get my feet wet there. So he, together with another person, Wilson Cannon, talked me into going down to the bank. So, Sandy and I picked up our two children who were born on Moloka‘i, and came down to Honolulu.


What did you start off as at the bank?


In the vault, counting currency, I think it was. Then I got moved up in the training session to a teller. But I could never balance.


So, they got me out of there fast.


So, you started kind of at the bottom?


At the bottom. It was fun. It was hard work in that I had to really grind myself into a lot of areas that I’d not touched before. Especially accounting and business financing, and credit. So, I did a lot of night schools.


You had connections, two generations, yourself and your daughter, with the family of Barack Obama.


My daughter uh, graduated with President Obama. They were in the same class together. My connection was, I worked for his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, in part of going through the various parts of the Bank of Hawai‘i. In fact, I think I still have a couple of scars on my back from her.


She was known as a very strong woman.


She was an immense banker.


How did she leave those scars on your back?


Just because a of my stupidity of not doing things right.


But she was a marvelous person; marvelous person.


And then, you rose to become an executive in Honolulu.


I first became in charge of the corporate banking division, then did that for about five or six years. And then, moved over and became head of all retail banking units, domestically and internationally. And it was a lot of fun. What made it a lot of fun was, I was with good people all the time.


While ranching was profitable for Henry Rice’s grandfather in the early 20th century, by the 1950s, when Henry’s father Harold “Oskie” Rice and uncle Garfield King bought the ranch, it was a break even business. As time marched on, and as Henry Rice and the third generation came of age, the family was faced with tough decisions. They sold their coastal lands in Kihei to survive in the family business.


It was about ’81, ’82, early 80s, that we formed the family partnership. Then unfortunately, my father passed away in ’83, I think it was. And unexpectedly, my uncle passed away uh, in ’87. So, my cousin Charley King came on as a general partner, and my Aunt Mary came in as a general partner, and I was the managing general partner. But I was still at the bank, still enjoying my banking days there. But, I kid everyone. Finally, my Aunt Mary said that I’d been playing around long enough, and I had to come home and work.


I came home. The Pi‘ilani Highway down in South Kihei was being built, and it was gonna be cutting off a portion of our makai ranchlands. We got ourselves together, and said, You know, those lands are gonna become valuable. It was at that time that we made the decision, Okay, let’s entitle the lands below the Pi‘ilani Highway.


You sold the coastal lands.


Coastal lands; all the coastal lands. But we put it into other properties, which in turn then produce income. So that you would not wake up one day and say, Where’d all our assets go? We have three warehouses in Austin, three in Ontario, California, and a few others. Since then, the younger generation has brought on a commercial fence company that’s doing very well.


I presume your banking background, you were a banker for twenty-five years. That must have informed what happened to how you could support this wonderful land, where renting couldn’t do it.


Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to bring the ranch to its financial stability that it is now.


As the patriarch of the Rice family, Henry continues to honor the traditions of his family’s past, and values the importance of staying connected with his extended ‘ohana.


You work and live with lots of family. I think I read somewhere that at Thanksgiving, you have fifty-two people show up; they’re all family. I mean, you’re intermarried a lot in the Maui area, and then, you’re involved in business with family, which seems like a very hard thing to do, especially when it’s generational. How do you make that work? It can’t be all sweetness and light.


I tend to leave it to Sandy and Wendy.


My wife and my daughter. I try to stay out of the loop as much as possible. But, you know, we live in the ranch house, the old ranch house where my grandfather lived. And you know, in fact, this year it’s a hundred years old.


Congratulations. I hope you have new plumbing, though.


We do; we do. And Thanksgiving, even Easter, but not as big. But Christmas Day, families from all over come to the ranch. It’s an important aspect for me and Sandy that they enjoy that this is their land, this is their ‘aina, and the responsibility they have, but to be able to come together and enjoy a day together. Thanksgiving dinner; yes, gets up to forty-five, fifty sit-down dinner. We have to do a little rearranging in the living room, but they get it done.


You know, I’ve run into people who talk about having spent years on the ranch, and they always say the Rices take good care of their people. Meaning, their employees. How do you?


It’s a matter of how you’re brought up. You know, as the saying goes, you ride for the brand. Like in any business, whether you’re in very nice brick and mortar, it’s still the people that make the business a success or not. Our ranch foreman always said, Henry, you tighten your own girth, your own saddle girth, you’re responsible. But don’t forget, the guy next to you is gonna make you good or not good. And so, you just naturally take care, and they take care of you.


Over the last few years, Henry Rice has slowly handed over the reins of Kaonoulu Ranch to the fourth generation. Although he says he’s retired, he hasn’t quite ridden off into the sunset, and he serves as senior advisor to the ranch.


Even our own ranch, the transitioning of bringing in three general partners that are of the next generation, one being my daughter Wendy, and a new general manager Ken Miranda, who’s married to my niece, their ability to flow with new ideas, and take really careful calculated risks—not stupid risk, but calculated risk, is a lot better than in my time, where we tended to be more structured. I would say that’s biggest thing I’ve seen.


You don’t have trouble letting go of things; right? Your banking career. I mean, you seem like you’re ….


Always looking ahead. Never dwell on what you did in the past. I think it’s very important to look ahead all the time. For years, we had a foreman on our ranch, Ernest Morton, who was probably another one of my great mentors. He never looked backwards; he always looked at what was ahead. Never say whoa in a tight spot.


You can’t take the cowboy out of Henry Rice. Here he is, back in the saddle, helping with the cattle drive in July 2016. In April 2017, Henry was inducted into the Pani‘olo Hall of Fame in Waimea, Hawai‘i, taking his place among revered Hawaiian cowboys of past and present. Mahalo to Henry Rice of Kula, Maui for sharing your story with us. And thank you for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.


For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.


You know, you’re very self-deprecating. You know, you say you leave the family stuff to Wendy and your daughter, and you know, the younger generation is smarter than you are. Were you always this modest, or at some point, was there—


I’m not very modest.


You’re pretty modest.




I don’t think I’ve heard you really take credit for anything.


They do it better.


Was there ever a different kind of Henry Rice?


I don’t think so. I’m just who I am; myself. Maybe it’s the local style. You’re just never really that way.




Focus on Compassion: Animals


The final installment of the four-part Focus on Compassion HIKI NŌ series focuses on peoples’ compassion toward animals, including house pets, working pets, exotic animals and endangered species. Like the previous three shows, this episode is hosted by Crystal Cebedo, a 2016 HIKI NŌ and Wai‘anae High School graduate who is currently attending Menlo College in Atherton, California.


The outstanding HIKI NŌ stories in this Focus on Compassion show include:


–“Dog Adoption” from Kapa‘a High School on Kaua‘i: a look at a creative program initiated by the Kaua‘i Humane Society to promote dog adoptions through visitors taking the animals on nearby field trips.


–“Towards No More Homeless Pets” from Lahaina Intermediate School on Maui: a feature on the spay/neuter clinic conducted by the Maui Humane Society to compassionately address and prevent the overpopulation of homeless cats on the island.


–“Three Ring Ranch” from Kealakehe High School on the island of Hawai‘i: the story of how one woman’s life work to protect and educate about exotic animals was inspired by the animals who helped her recover from a debilitating accident.


–“Passion for Service” from Seabury Hall Middle School on Maui: the story of a young woman who spent almost half her life volunteering at Assistance Dogs of Hawaii, a program that trains dogs to assist people with special needs.


–“Wounded Warriors” from Waialua High and Intermediate School on O‘ahu: a feature on the work of Hawaii Fi-do, an organization that trains service companion dogs, and the positive impact one of their companion dogs had on a Schofield soldier in the Wounded Warrior Project.


–“Nene” from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kaua‘i: a look at the multi- state agency project of removing a flock of nene, Hawai‘i’s state bird, nesting on Kaua‘i Lagoon between the two runways at Līhu‘e Airport to a safer location for the birds and the public.


–“Mālama NOAA” from Āliamanu Middle School on O‘ahu: a feature on the efforts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to protect and preserve the endangered Hawaiian monk seal population through medical care of sick or injured seals, the enforcement of laws, and through community education.


–“Hokulani” from Mid-Pacific on O‘ahu: the story of a Pomeranian that spreads joy wherever it goes.


This program encores Saturday, Sept. 30, at 12:00 pm and Sunday, Oct. 1, at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website, www.pbshawaii.org/hikino.



The Big Island, Hawai‘i


This series combines flavorful ingredients, top chefs and beautiful locations for the ultimate dining experience. In the third season of the Emmy-nominated series, Australian Chef Pete Evans goes coast-to-coast, and across the sea, traveling to Nashville, Louisville, Miami, San Antonio, Hawaii and other US locations to meet the best chefs in each area and cook a delicious meal that incorporates local and seasonal ingredients.


Big Island, Hawaii
“The Pied Piper of Hawaii Regional Cuisine,” Chef Peter Merriman takes Pete on a trip up the Kohala Mountains to the beautiful Kahua Ranch where they pick up Wagyu beef for the night’s feast. Meanwhile, local chef Jim Babian sources abalone straight from the tank at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii. Later, the chefs meet up at Merriman’s Restaurant to prepare wood-grilled abalone; pipikaula beef jerky poke; pan-seared kampachi with lilikoi brown butter sauce; and lamb curry with fresh ginger, turmeric, coconut and pineapple-mint garnish.


Maui, Hawai‘i


This series combines flavorful ingredients, top chefs and beautiful locations for the ultimate dining experience. In the third season of the Emmy-nominated series, Australian Chef Pete Evans goes coast-to-coast, and across the sea, traveling to Nashville, Louisville, Miami, San Antonio, Hawai‘i and other US locations to meet the best chefs in each area and cook a delicious meal that incorporates local and seasonal ingredients.


Maui, Hawai‘i
Pete explores, cooks and dines with two of the island’s excellent chefs, 2014 Maui Chef of the Year Isaac Bancaco, and founder of the mobile kitchen Maui Fresh Streatery Kyle Kawakami. The adventure starts with some off–shore fishing. Back on shore the team prepares a modern take on a traditional Maui feast at the spectacular Noho‘ana Farm known for its taro and poi.


O‘ahu, Hawai‘i


This series combines flavorful ingredients, top chefs and beautiful locations for the ultimate dining experience. In the third season of the Emmy-nominated series, Australian Chef Pete Evans goes coast-to-coast, and across the sea, traveling to Nashville, Louisville, Miami, San Antonio, Hawaii and other US locations to meet the best chefs in each area and cook a delicious meal that incorporates local and seasonal ingredients.


Oahu, Hawaii
Chef Pete Evans joins award-winning Hawaiian chefs Jon Matsubara and Lee Anne Wong on Oahu to learn how local pineapple is harvested. They also meet local fish guru/mentor Brooks Takenaka at the Honolulu Fish Auction to bid and buy locally sourced fish for dinner. Chef Jon shows how to make his famous smoking mai tai cocktail, hibachi-style Kauai shrimp, and Kahaluu roast pork belly, while Lee Anne cooks up fresh opah and vegetable sides and Pete prepares ahi poke.



Dr. Billy Bergin


Original air date: Tues., Dec. 8, 2008


Dr. Billy Bergin – Long Time Parker Ranch Veterinarian


Billy Bergin was born in Laupahoehoe, a remote, coastal village on Hawaii Island where his father was the plantation doctor. For a time, he was raised by a Hawaiian cowboy on a nearby ranch. And, when he grew up, Billy chose a profession that was, “right down the middle” between being a doctor and a cowboy. Billy Bergin became a veterinarian, a position for which he served at Parker Ranch for 25 years.


In this episode of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, Dr. Billy Bergin shares stories from his colorful life on the ranch.


Billy Bergin Audio


Monty Richards


Original air date: Tues., July 6, 2010


Pioneering Rancher & Farmer and Community Volunteer


Leslie Wilcox talks story with Monty Richards, fifth-generation family member of a ranching dynasty and former President/General Manager of Kahua Ranch on Hawaii island. Known for his pioneering efforts in high intensity rapid rotational grazing techniques and diversified operations like hydroponic farming, Richards is also recognized as a lifetime community volunteer.


Monty Richards Audio


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When you see other families suffering … I don’t get comfort out of that. I just try to work harder and figure there’s gotta be a better way, there’s gotta be a better way. Somebody upstairs knows better than me. Come on, give me a hint, and let’s go try.


Big Island ranching pioneer and lifetime community volunteer, Herbert Montague Richards Jr. shares his love of the land … next on LONG STORY SHORT.


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Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in High Definition.


Aloha Mai Kakou, I’m Leslie Wilcox. High in the Kohala Mountains on the northern tip of the Big Island is Kahua Ranch, Kahua meaning the beginning, the source, the foundation. Herbert Montague Richards, Jr.—better known as Monty Richards—is a third-generation member of the Kahua Ranch family business and a fifth-generation kamaaina descended from Protestant missionaries. As the former President and General Manager of Kahua Ranch, Monty Richards spent over half-century with his late wife Phyllis on the homestead while raising a family of four and their grandchildren. His dream of a career in ranching came to him while spending childhood vacations at Kahua. In 1953, with an agriculture degree in hand Monty began work for the company. His initiation was learning the ropes at the company slaughterhouse in Honolulu.


I did most of the jobs they had there, including rolling hides, which is … whew, if you’ve never rolled hides, you have no idea.


What is rolling hide?


Rolling hides is—these are hides that are taken off the animal. And they go in a salt pack. You actually salt them down. Lay ‘em out on the ground, and shovelfuls of salt put. And then when they’re cured, you have to fold them up and in those days, we used to have to tie ‘em up, and then they’re loaded on a flat trailer. And I think we were shipping some to the mainland, some to Korea in those days.


What for? What do they use the hides for?


Well, shoes, belts, handbags; all the rest of those good things. The smell was out of sight. And the hides are heavy; they’re sixty pounds and that sort. And I have Haole hands, and we use hide rope, which is a sisal type rope, which can cut. Because you’re in salt; boy, it used to burn.


So you graduated with this degree, and then came back and did this kind of a junk job.


You have to learn. You have to learn. Maybe you were told how to do the job, but until you get out and do it, you don’t realize how hard the work is. And when you are gonna give orders to get people to do it, they know that you have done it; and that makes all the difference in the world. In terms of labor, that’s probably one of the toughest jobs. You used to do that on Saturdays, which is, you don’t work five days and then you get two days off. But there are all kinds of jobs. I delivered meat. And in those days you used a pickup truck.


You didn’t have these nice, big vans with all the chill and all. You just—pickup truck, you cover ‘em with a canvas, and you drive down and Chinatown and all, you double park, and you load quarters of beef on your shoulder, and you take ‘em into the market. But those quarters weigh about a hundred and a quarter, 150 pounds, and you’re walking through a narrow aisle with people buying all around. You gotta be careful you don’t knock anybody down as you swing, because it’s sticking out about three feet in front.


Were they deliberately giving you the roughest jobs, because they needed to see whether—


I think so.


They were testing you.


I think so.




And it should be done that way.


So they didn’t give you any chance?




Any break.


No. And if you were wrong, you were politely told where you were wrong. So you just do it. Then later on, they transferred me to the Big Island.


So you were one of the hands.


That’s right. And you rode your horse, you saddled, you caught horse at six-thirty in the morning, and off you went.


Did you like it? Were you saying about then, were you saying, Why did I want to get into this business?


Depends on the weather. If the weather is fine, no. If it’s raining, yes. And the wind is howling at about twenty to thirty miles and hour, and you’re hunched over and your horse is hunched over, and you hope he doesn’t buck you off, and your slicker is hitting the horse and all, you wonder, What am I doing here? You just keep remembering that many of the people that you went to school with are junior accountants in a bank in New York City, and think of the life that those folks lead. The Wall Street folks would just wait ‘til Friday afternoon, and they’d jump in their car and they’d go to The Farm. They’d have about an hour and a half drive, and then they would spend a day and a half on The Farm. Listen, clown, you’re living it all life, you’re living it every day, so don’t grumble, you got it made.


Monty Richards is recognized for his pioneering efforts in high-intensity rapid- rotational-grazing techniques, and also for diversifying the business. This includes experiments with hydroponic farming and eco-friendly energy sources such as wind and solar power. Tourists are also invited to visit and explore Kahua’s breathtaking scenery.


I’ve been looked upon … kind of a maverick that does things differently. For instance, I started with motorcycles here. I got started on that. And people thought it was terrible, and it probably was. So to try to make it work a little better, I referred to them as Japanese quarter horses. So to have a little bit of the pizzazz still left in it. We use ATVs now, and all—most ranches do. They make the ranch must smaller, because you’re able to move around, and you’re able to get things done. So you never know; some things work well, others don’t work well.


And of course, cattle aren’t the only things you grow.


No, we grow sheep. We’re the largest sheep ranch here in the State. Which doesn’t say much; we have about eight hundred ewes.


How many cattle?


Well, mother cows, Kahua has about four thousands.


And you’re doing these hybrid.


Yeah; yeah. We’re crossing in—within the four thousand … we work with Wagyu cattle, Kobe beef. That’s what we raise. And the unfortunate thing is, so much of our cattle go to the mainland to be raised and fed. Getting the Wagyu in is working well with grass fed. We are able to kill a bunch of cattle here and we run a little store at the ranch, and we sell sheep and cattle, and Wagyu. In the case of cattle, the gestation period is nine months. So if you breed a cow, nine months later, hopefully, you get a calf. She stays with mama about eight months, so here we are; now we’re up seventeen months. Now you raise it on on grass another three months. Then you’re about four months in feeding the animal, before it is harvested. It’s a long time.


It’s expensive.


Oh, yes. But it’s experimental, and you’ve got to figure which ones are gonna do the best job for you. And when you’re experimenting, you’ve got a long wait. They’re not like chickens that turn over generations extremely quickly.


So how is your experiment working? You’ve done this for generations of—




—of cows.


Well, the Wagyu, for instance, you can’t get any matter out of Japan. In other words, they won’t ship any more semen to you for AI, or anything like that. So you’ve got to use what you have in the United States, and breed up with them, and try to get to the highest percentage that you can. We started at Kahua breeding artificially; the first calves hit the ground in 1966. And we were using Hereford and Angus at that time. And we’ve since moved on and we’re continuing to breed Angus and Hereford; but it takes a long time.


So how have your customers changed? Who do you sell to now, versus who you sold to before?


Well … there’s been quite a change from the before. We ended up shipping to the mainland in about, I don’t know, I’m guess about ten years ago, I’ve forgotten, when we closed down all the meat facilities here. I was president of Kahua Beef Sales and Kahua Meat Company here on Oahu. Parker Ranch closed the Hawaii Meat Company and all the rest. So that was quite a break. In those days prior to that, we used to sell to the Foodlands and the Times, and the Stars, and all the rest. And that’s the majority of the meat that was raised here, was sold here. Now that we’ve gone to the mainland by far, most all the meat is sold on the mainland.


Why is that?


Well, we’re not bringing it back, because it’s too hard to ship it, both ways and you have to keep the—a good point is, this the original meat that came here, and all the rest. I laughingly say that people say you are what you eat, so you all ought—always ought to eat Hawaiian beef. Reason is, because our Hawaiian beef on the mainland has had an ocean voyage. Now, how many steaks have had an ocean voyage?




And then when you come to the mainland, when you come to either Canada or California, gotta have a nice, long truck ride. So it’s had the ability to see the country.




So your cattle are well acclimated to having traveled. So if you eat that beef, you’re getting some of that in you, and that’s gotta be extremely healthy.


[CHUCKLE] Why do you ship them away? Why can’t they just live their entire lives here, and be consumed here?


We are trying to do that. We need new slaughterhouse; we need that. We do not have the facilities. We’ve got to get the infrastructure back that we lost at the time they were sold.




At the time it was closed, people in Honolulu wanted US Choice meat.




Didn’t want any of this grass fed stuff anymore. Nope; didn’t want it. Now, the whole thing has changed. Now, people, because of the health thing, want grass fed. Okay, now you got—


Because it’s leaner steak?


Leaner, tastes better, it’s better for you, et cetera, et cetera. But now, we’ve gotta build back the infrastructure that was lost, and that’s extremely expensive. And the expense is caused by, number one, that time has—that we live in, and number two, is the amount of Federal regulation—




—that is involved. So you pretty much have to start with a clean sheet of paper.


Cattle ranching in 2010 presents a challenge to ranch owners who are struggling economically. Kahua Ranch is no exception.


My feeling is that if you have a piece of land, the land must work for you. You work with it, but it must work for you. Now, you can have cattle on it, and that’s fine. But your land isn’t really working. The amount of money you can harvest from one animal, the amount—not enough. You’ve gotta make the land do something else. That’s why we have the visitor industry on it. ATV riding, taking people, letting them see things, see a ranch going; there, you begin to make the land work. You are, number one, you are educating people that come on the place as to what you’re doing, and you’re showing people why they’re coming to Hawaii, because they’ll agriculture in operation. We’ve hit this tough times now. That’s slowed way down. I think we’ll be able to pick it up, but you always have to realize that the end game in land is houses. Once you get in houses, the game’s up.




Do you really want to do that?


Have people approached you with some nice, big offers for your land?


Well, I fend them off. I don’t get down serious. We could sell it; be no problem. It’s some of the most beautiful land in the State. But there’s more to being a landowner than only looking for the so-called highest and best use. And the highest and best use of any land is subdivision. You ought to be smarter and make the land work for you, and help you, which in turn helps your fellow man.


But on the other hand, you’ve tried all kinds of things, and the economy hasn’t helped, and the weather often hasn’t helped. How are you doing at this point in 2010 with the family business?


Not very well. But you don’t give up. You don’t give up.


How much does it wear on you? I mean, you employ people, your family’s living on the property.


When you see other families suffering … I don’t get comfort out of that. I just try to work harder and figure there’s gotta be a better way, there’s gotta be a better way. Somebody upstairs knows better than me. Come on, give me a hint, and let’s go try. And that’s … I mean, you’re getting into my philosophy of life. But that’s the way I looked at it.


Never give up.




Keep trying.


That’s right.


And what about—at what point do you consider taking an extreme right or left turn, as opposed to persevering and moving in that same direction?


I haven’t gotten there yet; I don’t know.


How was it when you turned over the reins of the business to your son, Tim, a few years ago—




—after being the boss for a long time, decades?


[CHUCKLE] It’s interesting. When you decide to do that. You … that’s a switch. You’re either full-on, or you’re full-off. You better go full-on, if that’s what you want, and you turn it over. My tongue is two inches shorter.




The protein that I’ve eaten has been my tongue.




But I’ve tried to stay positive.


And support him as he—




—runs the business.


That’s correct.


But you do things …


I do—


Some things differently.


—some things differently; yup. Yup.


At what point do you step back and say, Hey, gotta listen to me on this one?


You wait for him to come and ask you. And that’s a difficult point.




And sometimes, oftentimes—don’t use the word often; oftentimes, his ideas are better than yours.


Maybe—perhaps in ranching, it’s different, but it just seems that it’s very hard to keep a family business or dynasty going.


Extremely difficult; extremely difficult. And it has to do with family dynamics. What you’re really looking at, do you want the family farm, because you’re rapidly running out of family farms from the tax standpoint. Do you want all big corporate farms? Do you want a meeting held weekly in X County … Ohio, where about ten people decide what the price of corn will be, or the price of soybeans?




A different ten people. Do you want that? Is that gonna be in the best interest of the United States? I think not. But how many people think that through? How many face that question?


How many people can withstand tough times?


That’s right. How many people have got the guts to stand up fulltime? Listen; if you want to wear a sword, you better be prepared to draw the sword and get into the fight.


I think of your living in a place where King Kamehameha the Great is said to have trained for battle. It’s just steeped in antiquity at the same time—




—it serves you today. Any thoughts about that?


The area that he was suppo—his guard were trained and all, is Kahua land. I would certainly like to be able to keep it the way it is now, or improve it from an agricultural standpoint. But not split it up to house sites. We did sell a bunch. Kohala Ranch was part of Kahua at one time. And that was it. But we stopped at a line below the cinder cones, because this other shows where Kamehameha was.


And do you foresee a time when there might be family dissention about whether to sell off land?




For housing.




For real estate purposes.


Yup. Oh, yeah; oh, yeah. Because if a person owns a ranch and you’re not making money, it’s costing you money; what are you gonna do? And we’ve gotta be smart enough to make sure that they’re profitable.


Do you know what … whatever you’re hoping for, what do you think might be the next best thing for the ranch?


Well you make the land do something. Visitors, that sort, which keep it in agriculture, but nevertheless, let more and more people enjoy it. And when—if you do a job, you can charge for it, and everybody is happy.


So it sounds like you don’t look for … easy work.


No, I just look for work. [CHUCKLE]


[CHUCKLE] And do you like it when it has a physical element to it?


Yeah. That’s fine. I mean, when you talk about physical, and I won’t ride a horse anymore, I won’t even get on a horse. If you fall down off a horse, when you get to be about my age, and something busts … it may heal, but it’ll be a long time. And it may never heal. So don’t put yourself in that position.


A neighbor islander, and especially a Hawaii Islander, has a different sensibility about life in Hawaii.


Probably do. M-hm.


And what should people in Honolulu know about Hawaii, as seen through your eyes?


Well … you mean, what do they look at the Big Island, and they don’t see?




I’ll tell you one thing; East Hawaii versus West Hawaii. To me, that is terrible. That is one island; you better damn well realize that it’s an island. Hawaii Island Economic Development Board is about twenty-some years old. I was the first president of that. I fought to make sure that people would realize that the Island of Hawaii is the Island of Hawaii; there’s not East Hawaii, and West Hawaii. And that has dogged that island for now—well, as far as I know, and including now. Because you will find that the East Hawaii seems to have better roads, they seem to—all of that stuff. Why? Because where is the head hall, so to speak, is in Hilo. What’s gonna come about is, West Hawaii, with all the housing and all that’s going on, all the millionaire homes, that’s gonna be where your tax money is gonna come from. And they’re not gonna sit still to have East Hawaii get everything, and here, here’s a little pinch for West Hawaii. You have to have the Island of Hawaii. And I said, You wait ‘til you get a mayor from West Hawaii—




—and you see what’s gonna happen. You think you guys know what’s coming? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Because they’re gonna take you apart. You’ve got to realize you’re a whole island; you’re one island, and they’ve even gone so far as to have, Well, maybe we should have two separate mayors and two separate police force. Ridiculous. Ridicuous.


With no desire to run for public office like his father before him, Monty Richards, a lifelong Republican, has instead served as a volunteer for countless civic organizations and on government boards. For 16 years he was a member of the University of Hawaii’s Board of Regents and a Board Director for Bank of Hawaii. Taking a leadership role with another organization helped him work through a lifelong problem with stuttering.


When I was in grade school, I could hardly get a word out.




It would get a little better, a little worse, little better, little worse. When I went to the ranch, I would stammer a lot more than I do now. But I became a— became the president of a rotary club.




And boy, that’s a bear. ‘Cause every week, you’ve got to run the meeting, and you better be prepared. So my first meeting, I remember, I stood up, looked at everybody; I said, Okay … I’ll be doing this every week. You boys are gonna want to sit in the front row, it’s up to you, but I suggest you bring umbrellas and raincoats, because—




—[CHUCKLE] because you might get wet before this thing’s over. Well, by my going over and doing that, I find it actually helped the stammer. Look at many of the people with real handicaps, the people with one leg, the people who have … well, I’ve got a very good friend. I call him a very good friend. Name is Senator Inouye. Look how he has done with one arm. And he’s carrying  shrapnel inside, and he’s eighty-four years old, or something like that. There’s a man that has done something. There’s a man that is really doing something. You gotta take your hat off to him. Those are the people that you got to admire … when you see what they’ve done.


How do you … how different do you feel than twenty years ago? You still feel the same inside?


About the same. Except, I huff and puff a little more. But other than that, you get up in the morning, and you listen. If you don’t hear nice music—




—you figure, hey, it’s all right. Then you get up, and you look around. If you don’t see the Grim Reaper with a scythe, you’re okay. If you do see him, run faster. That’s about the only way to do it.


With the latest smartphone in hand Monty Richards continues to utilize and promote innovative technology. In addition to his role as chair and trustee of Kahua ranch, he is spending his retirement continuing to serve and advocate for Hawaii’s agricultural community. Mahalo, Monty Richards in North Kohala, for sharing your “Long Story Short,” and thank YOU for watching and supporting PBS Hawaii. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A Hui Hou Kakou.



For audio and written transcripts of this program, and all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit pbshawaii.org.


Do you think missionaries have gotten a bad rap in today’s history of Hawaii?


Yup. And it’s unfortunate.


How do you look back on it?


I look back on it, I think it’s bound to be. Any time you have any envy, you always try to chop down something else. And that’s part of life. But you’re—if you’re the chopper or the choppee [CHUCKLE], it makes a difference. If you’re the chopper, why, ain’t bad; if you’re the choppee, it actually hurts a little.




But you have to push on. You have to push on. And when asked, don’t be afraid to say, No, because this, that, and the other. But you don’t go looking for a fight. But if they want to fight, you give it to them.